Somatic tracking for chronic pain: What is it?
Published Apr 8, 2023 • By Claudia Lima
Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience. It is called chronic when it lasts for at least three months. The varying degrees of severity of pain can lead to a profound change in the quality of life of those who suffer from it.
Numerous studies are being carried out to understand the mechanisms involved in pain and thus enable the development of new treatments. One of these treatments is somatic tracking.
So what exactly is somatic tracking? How can it help us understand and treat chronic pain?
Read our article to find out all about it!
Chronic pain is difficult to quantify and qualify. It persists or recurs beyond what is usual, does not respond sufficiently to treatment and/or leads to a significant and progressive deterioration in the functional and relational capacities of those concerned.
It is estimated that around 20% of adults in the United States suffer from chronic pain.
Drug treatments exist but can have side effects. There are also alternative or complementary solutions to treatments such as transcutaneous neurostimulation, surgery, physiotherapy, acupuncture and thermotherapy, among others. These solutions can help reduce pain effectively and restore a good quality of life.
Somatic tracking is one of these alternative therapies: it is still not very well known, but it can help doctors and patients better understand and treat chronic pain.
What is somatic tracking?
Somatic tracking is a method that uses physiological and behavioral data to monitor and analyze symptoms. It is one of the tools of pain reconditioning therapy. This method helps doctors gain a better understanding of the causes and consequences of chronic pain.
Pain Reprocessing Therapy is said to have been developed by Alan Gordon, an American psychotherapist who himself suffered from chronic pain. This therapy is a set of tools and psychological techniques used to completely change our view of chronic pain and to get out of the conditioning and functioning that amplify it. One of these tools is somatic tracking.
Its analysis of the neuronal origin of pain is now recognized and acclaimed by science.
How does somatic tracking work for chronic pain?
The process of somatic tracking is about spending time focusing on your symptoms without reacting to them, watching them as an observer, describing them and noticing how they change. It is an exercise that requires practice and patience.
In other words, somatic tracking is a way of connecting to the physical sensations of one's body at a given moment and assessing whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. This connection is then used to send messages of safety, strength and compassion to one's mind and body.
Thus, somatic monitoring combines mindfulness, reassessment of perceived danger and induction of positive emotions and pleasant feelings such as enthusiasm, inspiration and liveliness.
Indeed, when pain is intense or has been going on for some time, the natural reaction of the mind is to want to overcome it, and so worry and fear are the first emotions, related to survival techniques, that come to mind in the process of fighting with this pain. This exacerbates the stress and creates disturbing images in our subconscious, keeping the nervous system alert.
The aim of somatic tracking is to approach the pain in a different way, with non-negative feelings, so that they become neutral or positive. It thus relies on mindfulness to change behavioral patterns from increased sensitivity to decreased sensitivity.
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Douleur chronique : reconnaître le syndrome douloureux chronique, l’évaluer et orienter le patient, HAS
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